The Trial Nixon Never Had

The Trial Nixon Never Had

Whittier College, the alma mater of former president Richard Nixon, will host a free sneak peek reading of singer and playwrightGeorge Bugatti’s new Trial on the Potomac: the Impeachment of Richard Nixon this Saturday, November 9th.

The play was inspired by Whittier College alumnus and Nixon-era White House fellow Geoff Shepherd’s book, The Real Watergate Scandal

Published in 2015, the book is written in Nixon’s defense. Shepherd served as the principal deputy to Nixon’s defense counsel during the Watergate hearings, and had access to all seized files. 

“Geoff said to me, ‘Boy, wouldn’t it be great to give him the trial he never got?’ We just changed it to an impeachment, which was brilliant on Geoff’s part,” Bugatti says. “Let’s give this man the trial he never got and let the people decide.”

“I’m not really looking to change anyone’s mind and I don’t think that was Geoff’s intention when he wrote his book, but I think when you offer the additional information, it at least gives someone something to ponder,” he said. 

Whittier College alumna and local psychologist Dr. Judith Prather is a friend of Shepherd’s from college, though she questions the perspective of The Real Watergate Scandal:

“We’re always due for a reconsideration,” she says, but at the same time, “people tend to see things through lenses that they have been wearing for a while. In other words, not through what might be called the most objective perspective.” 

“I’m not approaching this play from a partisan point of view,” Bugatti says. “When you hear and you see the information, I think at least it demands consideration.” 

Bugatti cites among Nixon’s accomplishments the creation of OSHA, the opening of China, the end of the draft, and the Environmental Protection Act. 

“His work with civil rights, desegregation of schools in the south, Title IX–that was his. He signed that into law. He accomplished a lot of good things,” Bugatti says.

Regarding the timing of an impeachment story: “I think it’s something that people can identify with, especially currently,” Bugatti says.

“I read the book two years ago, and then reread it [recently]. It seems like everything old is new again. Those buzzwords–collusion, corruption, secret meetings–were in the press 45 years ago and they certainly seem to be relevant today.”

“I’ve had some people who have not wanted to become a part of the project because it was Nixon,” Bugatti said. “We had a PR person who dropped out because one of the characters, who is still alive, is a friend of his.”

“It’s very difficult for people to change their points of view on things, but I think truth is truth,” Bugatti says. “When you hear and you see the information, I think at least it demands consideration.”

The play will preview at Whittier College and the Richard Nixon Library in Yorba Linda before debuting in New York next year. Free entry to a staged reading is offered at the Ruth B. Shannon Center for the Performing Arts on Saturday, November 9th at 12:30pm. 

Why should people attend?

“They should come because they’re going to have a good time and they’re going to learn about a great man,” Bugatti says.

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